Feb 21, 2009

The Light Of Christ vs. Conscience

During Sunday School lessons and talks, members of the Church will often use the terms "Light of Christ" and "conscience" synonymously.

But are they the same thing?

First, a little background information:

"The phrase “light of Christ” does not appear in the Bible, although the principles that apply to it are frequently mentioned therein. The precise phrase is found in Alma 28: 14, Moro. 7: 18, and D&C 88: 7. Biblical phrases that are sometimes synonymous to the term “light of Christ” are “spirit of the Lord” and “light of life” (see, for example, John 1: 4; John 8: 12). The “spirit of the Lord,” however, sometimes is used with reference to the Holy Ghost, and so must not be taken in every case as having reference to the light of Christ.

The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ. For instance, Christ is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93: 2; John 1: 9). The light of Christ fills the “immensity of space” and is the means by which Christ is able to be “in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things.” It “giveth life to all things” and is “the law by which all things are governed.” It is also “the light that quickeneth” man’s understanding (see D&C 88: 6-13, 41). In this manner, the light of Christ is related to man’s conscience and tells him right from wrong (cf. Moro. 7: 12-19).

The light of Christ should not be confused with the personage of the Holy Ghost, for the light of Christ is not a personage at all. Its influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost. The light of Christ will lead the honest soul who “hearkeneth to the voice” to find the true gospel and the true Church and thereby receive the Holy Ghost (see D&C 84: 46-48). Additional references are Alma 19: 6; Alma 26: 3; D&C 20: 27."

(Bible Dictionary, "Light of Christ")

"The Light of Christ is the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. The Light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. One manifestation of the Light of Christ is what we call a conscience."

(Gospel Topics, Light of Christ)

"The Light of Christ became a doctrine of the Latter Day Saint movement, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that most people would call conscience. This doctrine teaches that the light of Christ "lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (Holy Bible, King James Version, John 1:9) "Wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:13. The "Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil." (Moroni 7:16) As another divine source of inspiration and knowledge of truth, the Holy Ghost himself is a divine personage and member of the Godhead. All people are able to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost from time to time. But repeatedly going against the Light of Christ will eventually make one "beyond feeling" the influence of the Holy Ghost. The baptism of water spoken by Jesus to Nichodemus was a literal baptism as practiced in the church. The baptism of fire is to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, or the opportunity to always feel the Holy Ghost's companionship, as long as one remains worthy of it. The Light of Christ is the knowledge of good and evil given to all mankind before baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. The conscience is a manifestation of the Light of Christ, enabling each individual to judge for themselves. Whether to follow the commandments of God, and hope for His eternal rewards, or to follow the enticings of the devil which persuadeth man to do evil and become captive and dammed to hell and eternal darkness. The Light of Christ is the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong."

(Wikipedia, "Light of Christ")

"The light of Christ will lead the honest soul who “hearkeneth to the voice” to find the true gospel and the true Church and thereby receive the Holy Ghost."

So how much do you trust your conscience? Should it override what others tell you is right, or can your conscience lead you astray, even if you consider yourself to be
"an honest soul?" And is "Light of Christ" really a synonym for "conscience?"


Loyd said...

I was actually going to write a blog post tomorrow about this so-called 'light of Christ' -something that I have been thinking about for the last few weeks.

I find the LofC to be just another example of nonsensical metaphysics that we LDSaints have arbitrarily constructed in attempts to elucidate passages of scripture that are clear enough in themselves, and are just further confused by these metaphysical creations.

Clarke said...

Funny how now on the net we are all inter-connected, whether we want to be or not. I am writing a talk and talking about conscience and the light of Christ and when I googled the two I stumbled upon this post. Anyway, I just wanted to dump a little more in the pot. I think the connection really depends upon how each idea is defined. Here are a couple thoughts regarding the definition of conscience. All these come from "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout:

"Conscience is an intervening sense of obligation based in our emotional attachments to others…. Conscience is deeply and affectingly anchored in our ability to care about one another… Conscience propels us outward in the direction of other people, toward conscious action both minor and great… in small ways, genuine conscience changes the world. Rooted in emotional connectedness, it teaches peace and opposes hatred and saves children… It makes individual lives better and increases human dignity overall."

In respect to these thoughts on conscience, I think the Light of Christ is very much inter-connected.

Times-a-tickin', need to get back to my talk. Just wanted to leave a note and add to the discussion a bit.

Papa D said...

D&C 93:36-42 is one of the most fascinating passages in all of our canonized scriptures, imo.

It would take multiple posts and lots of space even to begin to explain how amazing I find those seven verses to be, but I am one who really does believe in the symbolic foundation of "the Light of Christ". Granted, I probably would call it something else if it were up to me (like the Light of Grace, perhaps) - but the under-girding message of the concept is one I really love.

Anonymous said...

I thought you might enjoy my post about Lorenzo Snow and the Holy Ghost. I like the concept that the Holy Ghost is a "higher endowment" mentioned by President Faust in the April 2001 general conference - see Born Again.

derekstaff said...

I don't know that I necessarily understand the nature of the "Light of Christ" and the relationship between that and what we typically call our conscience. At various times I thought I did, but new information and new concepts have lead me to be less sure currently.

In any case, I believe ultimately we must trust our inner voice, whatever you want to call it. We should be informed by outside sources (such as the prophet), and introspection is a must for us to keep ourselves honest about what that inner voice is really saying. But ultimately it must come down to what we feel in our hearts is right. That is where the Lord (or whatever form of divinity you believe in) speaks to us.

The Teacher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Teacher said...

I agree that you often hear the terms "conscience" and "light of Christ" used interchangeably. I guess I have always considered the "light of Christ" to be an outside influence, independent from the conscience. Most normal people (those without mental health problems or mental disabilities) have a conscience, which is largely a function their environment and upbringing. The light of Christ can influence and enlighten our conscience. Each individual's conscience may or may not be highly predictive of what is right, depending upon that individual's abilities, environment, experiences, etc. The conscience would be enhanced by the light of Christ, which seems like an essentially free gift, available to all who do not consciously choose to act against it. The conscience could be enhanced even further by the Gift of the Holy Ghost, disciplined attempts to live in accordance with God's will, etc.

I don’t have a lot of scriptural or doctrinal support for that. But, hey, this is the bloggernacle.

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